The August March interview with mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson (April 20-26) is deeply disturbing for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that March asks only softball questions and editorializes throughout in favor of the candidate. The headline alone reeks of bias: “New Sheriff, New Town; Wayne Johnson offers orderly and efficient solutions.” March tells us in the first paragraph that Johnson “really is the law and order candidate.” The only solutions Johnson even hints at are tired, conservative talking points: 1) giving tax incentives to “outside business forces” will produce lots of jobs and “steer [Albuquerque] toward efficiency and economic self-sufficiency” (I guess we’re talking about the wonders of industrial revenue bonds and/or income tax cuts, which by Johnson’s logic, should already have revitalized the city but clearly did not); 2) increasing the military budget (which is not exactly within the mayor’s or the City Council’s control); and 3) getting rid of the consent decree and letting law enforcement police itself (no mention about the reason for the consent decree and the prior DOJ investigation of the unusual number of police shootings in Albuquerque; only a reference to APD being “under siege by pandering politicians”).
March says they mostly discussed public safety, Johnson’s “apparent area of expertise.” Isn’t it the journalist’s job to research what he may think to be “apparent,” rather than simply telling us what the candidate wants us to believe? What does March even think makes Johnson an expert in public safety? He doesn’t tell us.
When Johnson says that the Air Force base contributes $7 billion to the economy, March asks him to repeat what he just said without even questioning where Johnson gets his information from or discussing what else may be out there that contributes to the economy. Might food stamps or Section 8 housing vouchers or Medicaid also contribute significantly to the economy, and should we increase that funding as well?
Johnson acknowledges an APD staffing shortage of 250 officers, and then he waffles on whether the city should actually eliminate the shortage. Is he implying that we shouldn’t spend the money on eliminating the shortage and just “work smarter,” despite the fact that there is a virtual consensus in the city that we need many more officers in order for APD to do its job and do it well? March does not ask any critical questions of the candidate so that readers can be better informed about his views. Instead he allows (in fact, encourages) Johnson to blame APD’s problems on the consent decree and the “pandering politicians” (whoever they may be).
March’s last line in the piece is, “Listen to the rest of this very, very engaging interview at alibi.com.” What journalist uses an expression like “very, very engaging” to describe his own work or even a candidate for office? Is he trying to emulate a certain president who very, very frequently says “very, very”, for example, in referring to his “wonderful successes” and the “dishonest media”? The only thing that the written part of the interview engaged in me is my sense of outrage. I know the Alibi can do better.